What Democrats Mean When They Say 'Radical'

With words like "radical" and "extreme" being liberally flung around, it's probably time to define our terms.


With words like "radical" and "extreme" being liberally flung around, it's probably time to define our terms. After all, vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan, I am assured, embodies both words in deed and spirit.

These days, radical ideas appear in many forms: a plan offering future seniors a choice of health care insurance or one that marginally cuts back on deficit spending or even a plan–when things get really, you know, German–that attempts to balance the budget over two decades.

If a person is to believe his media, he would have to accept that bringing discretionary spending back to 2008 levels, as Ryan has suggested, is like letting a Koch-funded plutocrat in war paint shred the social contract and throw it into a Klan-lit bonfire. Nearly every outlet, every interviewer, every reference about Ryan's plan is imbued with a tone that asks, "Isn't this nuts?"

But adding $11 trillion to the national debt, as Obama's proposed budget does, well, that passes the levelheaded policy test. One day, perhaps when fact checkers take a break from crunching every uncompromising decimal point in Ryan's budget proposal, they can explain how Obama's plan is supposed to work and how spending without end ends—you know, for the kids.

If, that is, they survive. Medicare, as you've also heard, will cease to exist in its present form once free market jihadists storm the White House, abolish the program and exact their revenge on the elderly. And no, forcing Americans to participate in an entitlement mere years from its collapse is not a radical proposition. Rather, offering Americans who are 55 or younger a menu of (slightly more) competitive market options to drive down prices—funded at approximately the same level Obama proposes—can be forever referred to as "controversial."

And when the president carves out $700 billion from Medicare as seed money for a new trillion-dollar entitlement project, we are keeping with our nonradical traditions, even if we have to force everyone to participate. When Ryan proposes similar cuts to extend the life of Medicare, he is a granny-starving Pericles.

Put it this way: Ryan's plan injects the same reactionary idea into Medicare that the average American struggles with every day as he heads out into the marketplace to buy food or furniture or a phone—which, according to many Democrats, is the kind of social Darwinism that no decent person should ever be subjected to.

Which reminds me: If you happen to be attracted to some of the broader ideas in an Ayn Rand book, you, my friend, are an extremist for life. If, on the other hand, your ideological education was provided by an all-star lineup of leftist thinkers, you're good. Certainly, no one is going to demand that you accept or repudiate the teachings of Frank Marshall Davis or Karl Marx in toto.

This is the world we're in. In Washington, extremists stand (somewhat) firm on the idea of preserving decade-long tax rates in a terrible economy, whereas reasonable presidents have no qualms heading toward a fiscal cliff, as long as they have a class-envy tax hike to campaign on (for what is, in the context of spending, a pittance).

As it turns out, radicals provide budgets that curb growth by a few percentage points over many years, whereas rational politicians don't even bother passing budgets.

Then again, Ryan the Unreasonable supported TARP, auto bailouts and Medicare expansions, so we can agree that radicalism does exist. It just depends, I suppose, on how you look at things.

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  1. “Koch-funded” should be just as much of an epithet as “Soros-funded”, if the left were to be truthful. NO rich people should have influence over politics, if the left would be honest with their stated principles.

    1. Rich people who follow the approved ideology are poor in spirit*, so it’s okay when Soros does it.

      *Yes, I’ve actually been told this.

      1. Well, I can’t say that the whip crackers on Team Blue aren’t really REALLY good at deceiving teenagers and mental teenagers.

        I mean REALLY good.

        1. That’s because most teenagers are used to getting free stuff from the people in charge.

    2. Fine with me. No rich person should have any more influence over politics than any other person, as this is not a plutocracy.

      1. And here’s the secret, Tony,

        They don’t. At least they don’t have any influence over politics that isn’t willingly given t them by politicians. It’s not the money that is the problem, it’s the graft. Take away the ability for politicians to give away favors through tax and regulatory loops, and money will stop flowing in to the system in order to get favors via tax and regulatory loops.

        1. So, basically, take away Congress’s power to legislate, and everything is fine?

  2. “…letting a Koch-funded plutocrat in war paint shred the social contract and throw it into a Klan-lit bonfire…”
    isnt that the scene where they dance n chant in their robespierres w john goodman?

    1. Needs moar stOOOpid.

      1. No, that was plenty.

      2. That was at least a little clever. I’ll say that Orrin is the most reasonable member of hit”n’run’s left consortion. I will also wager before the end of the day I’ll wind up with egg on my face, and he will have proved me wrong. It has happened a few times before, hence the rarity of going out on a limb to defend the wee ones.

    2. shred the social contract

      This “social contract” of which you speak — would you kindly point me to a copy of it?

      1. Preferably a signed copy, if you don’t mind.

        1. You signed it when you were born. You don’t remember that?

          1. I made some alterations, initialed them, and returned the contract, but for some reason society never got around to returning the countersigned copy.

      2. Having to uphold the obligations put upon us by our elders decades before we were born (SS, medicare, etc) is fucking bullshit.

        I didn’t agree to support those who have had their entire lives to procure wealth. WHy the fuck did they get to decide that for me?

        The “social contract” can lick my fucking taint. The only social contract I’m obligated to is to not actively harm others. That’s fucking it.

  3. in liberal terms, doesn’t “radical” means one who disagrees? Radical is so overused it has lost any impact.

    1. You’re obviously a radical Nazi.

      1. Oh, an extremist.

  4. Alt Text: Yes my balls really are this big

  5. That picture of Paul Ryan makes it look like he’s a six-star General.

  6. Anybody who does not approve of doubling the federal budget every three to five years is a dangerous radical extremist. Or worse.

    1. Literally worse than Hitler. Because Hitler was all about small government, and leaving people alone. Radical anarchist was he.

  7. This “social contract” of which you speak — would you kindly point me to a copy of it?

    It’s what we like to call a “living document” which basically means it means whatever the progressive left wants it to mean at any given moment; so, no. Just wait for the updates.

  8. And this is why the USA is headed for fiscal disaster. When you can’t convince the opposition (roughly half the country), that the middle position (which only delays the disaster instead of preventing it) is not a full fledged assault on humanity, the battle is already lost. The only way that the argument is resolved is by rambling down the same path until the logical result occurs.

    1. The only way that the argument is resolved is by rambling down the same path until the logical result occurs.

      And hope that you’re around to point, laugh, and say I told you so.

  9. once california implodes you can expect to see things get even more shrill and hysterical

    1. I can’t wait until California insists on a bail out to be paid by everyone including states like West Virginia. I just picture some yuppie telling a dirty WV coal miner that they “need” to bail out CA. I forsee a giant spitball headed straight for CA.

      1. Expect 540 million upturned middle fingers at that moment.

  10. So, what’s the consensus?

    Slow, grinding decline, or spectacular crisis/collapse?

    1. Slow decline. Like a hot air balloon, we’ll goose it every once in a while to keep it above the tree-tops, but we will run out of fuel eventually.

    2. The former first, then then latter.

  11. all-star lineup of leftist thinkers

    Who might those be? Nobody’s heard of Davis, and I challenge you to get one liberal in political power or elsewhere who cites Marx as an intellectual influence (though Marx was certainly a more important figure in the history of thought than the likes of Rand).

    There’s an article out on this subject: Why is there no Liberal Ayn Rand?.

    Liberals are pragmatists and don’t formulate policies based on some utopian goal. There are plenty of philosophers who inform my political worldview (Rorty, Rawls), but the point is the very idea that people’s theories from 100 or 50 years ago, or a system set up in 1789, are adequate to the task of totally informing the best society in the current age, is likely wrongheaded.

    That Rand and her ilk have never been successfully applied is met with protests that we just haven’t been trying hard enough. But politics shouldn’t be exempt from evidential requirements. We’ve got good and bad examples of societies all over the world. How strange that by all meaningful measures the best societies have strong social welfare policies. When a laissez-faire paradise pops up somewhere, you’ll have your model. I for one don’t want the US to go first. Even without evidence it seems like it won’t work by virtue of its sheer ridiculousness.

    1. Liberals are pragmatists and don’t formulate policies based on some utopian goal.

      Gotta be trolling. Just gotta be.

      1. When have I ever done anything but ridicule you guys for daydreaming about utopia? I could be a mirror image of you and talk about a worker’s paradise, but I don’t, I talk about the latest imperfect bill and whether it’s a step in the right direction or wrong. And Democrats in power never pass out books of cult figures and talk about policies in terms of some stupid cult’s absolutist requirements.

        1. How can it be a step in the right direction if you don’t have an end goal in mind?

          Anyway, Tony’s actually right on this one in that the main stream is not driven by ideology but by the expediency of the moment. That’s why there is no long range plan in DC and there hasn’t been one in a long time (was there ever?).

          How’s that working out by the way? Speeding towards bankruptcy with no long term plan. I’ll take ideology over pragmatism any day.

          1. Federal bankruptcy is the least of their mistakes and crimes.

            1. True, but talking about all the people they have murdered, enslaved, and wrongly put in prison would be thread-jacking.

        2. DemocraticUnderground, meet Tony. Tony, DemocraticUnderground.

          DailyKos, meet Tony. Tony, Daily Kos.

          You still have to pay for your Chomsky books and Rage Against the Machine CD’s because we have to fight within the capitalist system, but all that will be but a memory when the great emancipator Barack Obama frees us from the bondage of wage slavery and health care costs.

          Your troll skills have markedly declined of late, Tony. It’s starting to lose its magic.

      2. Tony? Just a complete lack of self-awareness combined with a modestly-above-average intelligence, a busy-body personality, and a consequentialist ethical system.

    2. ” it seems like it won’t work ”

      Define “work”.

      Without leviathan, life goes on. I’m curious what “small govt wouldn’t work’ means. Does it mean “I couldnt enforce my pet social control schemes on people?”

      1. Does it mean “I couldnt enforce my pet social control schemes on people?”


    3. There are plenty of philosophers who inform my political worldview (Rorty, Rawls)…


    4. “Liberals are pragmatists and don’t formulate policies based on some utopian goal.”

      Yeah, like declaring war on poverty,
      or trying to ensure everyone in the country can live in a home they can’t afford, or believing everyone can have state-of-the-art access to medical treatment without having to pay for it, or believing we can moderate the earth’s temperature to within a narrow range based upon about 1/30666666 of the planet’s existence, or eliminate the use of carbon-based fuels for 300 million people, or believing that taxing 1% of the population even more will save the country from its debt woes,

      Nope, no dogmatism there…

    5. ” But politics shouldn’t be exempt from evidential requirements. ”

      You’re absolutely right. So based upon the gaggle-fuck of evidence against the type of society and government you espouse, one should conclude that your championed philosophy is ineffective and antithetical to your own positions … But you yourself protest that we just haven’t been trying hard enough

    6. I read that: Liberals have no principles and really only do what they think will make themselves feel better at the moment.

      Of course there are no leftist versions of Rand, leftists couldn’t possibly offer a principled argument in favor of a system that HAS been tried and found to result in more suffering and depravity than even some ancient systems of government.

      1. A leftist Rand would inevitably wind up writing what would easily be thought to be a roman-a-clef of North Korea.

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